Unfortunately for those of us hoping to make up for overseas trips lost to the pandemic, 2023 is shaping up to be another expensive year for travel.

Rising living costs, the struggling New Zealand dollar and an aviation sector still grappling to recover from restrictions during the earlier part of the pandemic have made 2022 a particularly pricey year for travel, and things don’t look set to improve dramatically anytime soon.

And yet the challenging financial times don’t seem to have dented our enthusiasm for travel. A Booking.com survey of 24,000 people in 32 countries and territories found that almost three quarters (72%) believe that travel is always worth it, with half saying that it is a top priority for them. That said, 68% of respondents said they’d be seeking “more bang for their buck”.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of places likely to present particularly good value to travellers next year. It’s by no means exhaustive though, so keep your eyes on exchange rates, sign up to airline newsletters for special deals, and have a chat to a travel agent.

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The historic city of Hoi An was named the best-value destination worldwide in the UK Post Office’s latest long-haul travel report.

Like other countries in southeast Asia, Vietnam has long been considered budget-friendly, but the report found it has become even more so since the pandemic started. The total cost of 10 common holiday items – including a three-course dinner with a bottle of house wine, coffee, beer, cocktails, a chocolate bar and mineral water – were 10% lower than in 2019, the report found.

Many of the attractions in historic Hoi An are either free or cheap by New Zealand standards.


Many of the attractions in historic Hoi An are either free or cheap by New Zealand standards.

In Hoi An, strolling around the Old Town, with its beautifully preserved Japanese merchant houses, Chinese guildhalls and ancient tea warehouses, won’t cost you a dong, and a good public transport network and reasonably priced domestic airfares make it easy to venture further afield. A popular option is to hire a scooter or motorbike to ride the length of the county, from the mountains of the north with their hill tribes and tea plantations, to the waterways of the Mekong Delta, but only attempt this if you’re an experienced rider and have travel insurance. Alternatively, ride the railway that follows the coast from Ho Chi Minh in the south to Hanoi and beyond – a strong contender for one of the best railway journeys in the world.

As in Sri Lanka, staying in homestays is a good way to keep costs down while experiencing how the locals live – in Hoi An, you can find well-reviewed ones from about $13 a night.

Fuel up on fresh, flavoursome street food favourites such as pho and banh mi and a meal shouldn’t set you back more than a few dollars. Beer included.

It’s possible to have an affordable safari experience in Kenya if you choose your accommodation wisely.


It’s possible to have an affordable safari experience in Kenya if you choose your accommodation wisely.


An affordable safari destination with a wide selection of accommodation, Kenya came in at number three on the UK Post Office’s latest report on value long-haul destinations.

Luxury safari lodges don’t come cheap, but you can pick up good deals in low and shoulder seasons, or if they’re not as full as expected. Check with a local travel agent, or on websites such as Safari Bookings, which bring together a range of options.

There are plenty of mid-range lodges within national parks, along with campsites which arguably offer an even more magical experience. Expect to pay about $30 to stay in a preconstructed tent, or around $80 to have cooked meals included. The Kenya Wildlife Service website is a good resource for researching your options. Accommodation just outside the parks tends to be cheaper – just bear in mind that safaris often come with super-early start times.

If you head to the coast, beach bungalows and villas often represent the best value for money – some of the latter come with a private chef and still work out to be cheaper than staying at a similar-standard hotel.

Domestic flights can be affordable, but it’s cheaper to take the train, even if you book a first-class cabin, or bus. Alternatively, you could hire a private driver from about $80 a day, plus petrol.

Koroga (barbecue) restaurants typically offer good-value meals to satiate even the most prodigious of appetites, while roadside snacks such as roasted meat and grilled plantain do a pretty good job of that too.

Portugal is one of the best value – and popular – destinations in Western Europe.


Portugal is one of the best value – and popular – destinations in Western Europe.


Still one of the best-value destinations in Western Europe, Portugal offers a winning combo of castles, cobblestone villages, pastel-painted cosmopolitan cities, and some of the best beaches north of the equator.

Lisbon came in at number two on the UK Post Office’s latest list of the best-value city breaks in Europe, trailing only Athens. While the Greek capital also represents great value right now (some describe it as the new Berlin with better weather), Portugal is on a winning streak in terms of tourism.

At the 2022 World Travel Awards ceremony in Majorca, the country was named Europe’s leading destination, and also picked up the gongs for Europe’s leading beach destination (the Algarve), leading city destination (Porto), and leading adventure tourism destination (the Azores).

The ultra-thrifty should be able to get by on about €50 euros (NZ$80) a day in Portugal, with many of its attractions – from its museums and mediaeval buildings to the surf beaches of the south – costing nothing at all.

A reasonably priced rail network complemented by a comprehensive bus service; and stylish hostels with private rooms and wallet-friendly activities also help keep costs down.

Many restaurants offer lower prices at lunchtime, often selling good quality house wines at similar prices to a bottle of water, so eat out then and stock up on fresh produce and seafood at the markets for your evening meal. Happily, Portugal’s must-eat item, the pasteis de nata (custard tart) shouldn’t set you back more than a euro or few.

Samoa offers an ultra laid-back Pacific Island break.

Lorna Thornber/Stuff

Samoa offers an ultra laid-back Pacific Island break.


Less touristy than some of its neighbours, Samoa offers an authentic Pacific Island experience at some pretty great rates.

One of the best-value accommodation options is the open-air fales that line the long white stretch of loveliness that is Lalomanu Beach. They’re far from luxurious, but if you like the idea of falling asleep to the sound of waves gently lapping the shore and spending your days swimming, snorkelling and snoozing, they’re pretty hard to beat.

Many of the major attractions on the main island of Upolu are either free or cheap by New Zealand standards.

Highlights include the Instafamous To Sua Ocean Trench, a saltwater swimming hole with water so vividly turquoise it has to be seen to be believed; Vavau Beach, where palm trees lean lazily into a lagoon protected by an offshore island; the lovingly-restored Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, where the prolific Scottish author spent the last years of his life; and Nourish Cafe, where organic, locally grown produce shines in traditional dishes such as ika mata (raw fish in coconut cream) and international favourites such as poke and fish and chips.

Bali is easier – and cheaper – to access now Air New Zealand has resumed its direct flights.


Bali is easier – and cheaper – to access now Air New Zealand has resumed its direct flights.


With Air New Zealand resuming its direct flights to Bali, it’s easier than it has been in years to access this longtime magnet for budget-conscious travellers.

While the Indonesian isle is home to plenty of high-priced resorts, the financially constrained are also spoilt for choice – a quick search on Booking.com for stays in Ubud in early May 2023 returned double rooms in guest houses from less than $10 a night. A deluxe double room at The Crystal Luxury Bay Resort in surf mecca Nusa Dua, meanwhile, cost from $47 a night. A favourite with “digital nomads”, Bali also has some excellent value longer-stay options.

With a budget of around $120 a day, you could stay in a budget hotel, hire a scooter, take a tour, enjoy a massage and feast on traditional dishes such as nasi goreng at a family-run warung. Up that to $240 and you should be able to stay somewhere luxurious, take taxis or hire a driver, and go on more expensive tours.

Southern destinations such as Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu and Ubud tend to attract the most tourists – and highest prices – so head north if you’re looking for a more peaceful, as well as more wallet-friendly, experience.

The Gold Coast’s Tallebudgera Creek is framed by the Burleigh Heads National Park.

Destination Gold Coast/Stuff

The Gold Coast’s Tallebudgera Creek is framed by the Burleigh Heads National Park.

Gold Coast, Queensland

With about 300 days of sunshine a year and beaches that live up to the name of its most famous resort town (Surfers Paradise), the Gold Coast is a perennial favourite with Kiwis for good reason.

Flights are about as cheap as you’re going to get from New Zealand if you make sure your book well in advance and, while accommodation can be pricey, there are some good-quality hostels and decent rates on the likes of Airbnb.

Families in particular might like to check out the holiday parks that line the coast from Kirra Beach to Tallebudgera Creek – many have cabins and self-contained villas to stay in if you haven’t hired a campervan or brought your own tent. Some, such as NRMA Treasure Island Caravan Park, even have their own water parks, saving you tickets to Wet n Wild.

Alternatively, travel agencies such as Flight Centre and House of Travel and booking platform Expedia often have great package deals to the Coast. At the time of writing, House of Travel was offering return flights and five nights in a four-star hotel, with breakfast, from $1149 per person.

Once there, eschew the theme parks for the natural water parks that are the beaches (Coolangatta is more laid-back and often cheaper than Surfers Paradise), and hit the hinterland. Take a hike in one of the region’s World Heritage-listed national parks (O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in Lamington National Park has a free tree-top walk, hikes to waterfalls and daily bird feeding or bird of prey shows), or feed the lorikeets at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary for a gold coin donation. Grab fish and chips for dinner, have a sunset picnic on Burleigh Hill, or take your taste buds on a world tour at Miami Marketta, where you can also catch free live music.

Struggling economically, Sri Lanka is desperately in need of visitors.

Brook Sabin/Stuff

Struggling economically, Sri Lanka is desperately in need of visitors.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has always been an affordable destination, but its struggling currency has made it even better value for much-needed visitors.

A quick search on Booking.com found that you could stay in a four-star boutique hotel with an infinity pool in the capital, Colombo, from $88 a night in April, the tail end of the high season.

Homestays, which offer an authentic insight into Sri Lankan culture, are available on sites such as Booking.com and Airbnb for as low as $15 a night, and hostel beds cost even less.

Many of the tropical island nation’s attractions are either free or cheap by New Zealand standards. Think palm-fringed beaches, ancient temples and wildlife-filled national parks. A safari for two in one of the national parks – home to elephants, leopards, sloth bears and a high number of species found nowhere else on earth – will set you back about $100 to $160.

The ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura cost about US$25 (NZ$40) to visit, while other cultural attractions – such as the Dambulla Cave Temple and Mulkirigala Rock Temple – cost a fraction of the price. Extensive bus and train networks, and women-run Hela Bojun kitchens, which turn out healthy vegan and vegetarian meals for a few dollars, also help keep costs down.

At the time of writing, the New Zealand government advised Kiwis to “exercise increased caution” in Sri Lanka due to the impacts of the country’s economic crisis and political unrest. Visit Safetravel.got.nz for details.

Travellers at The Gibbon Experience in Laos stay in some of the highest tree houses in the world.


Travellers at The Gibbon Experience in Laos stay in some of the highest tree houses in the world.


Laos stands out even in a country full of budget-friendly destinations. The landlocked country attracts fewer visitors than its coastal neighbours, which is all part of the attraction for those looking for an authentic slice of life in a southeast Asian paradise.

Biking the backstreets of Luang Prabang, where saffron-robed monks heed the call to alms each morning, setting out on a community-based trek with a traditional homestay and exploring ancient temples are among the many affordable – and in some cases completely free – adventures the country has to offer. And you can chill out afterwards with a cheap-as-chips massage or yoga class.

The adventurous should check out The Gibbon Experience, which will see you sleep in a tree house deep in the jungle of the Bokeo Nature Reserve and zipline your way around it from about US$100 (NZ$160 a night), including meals.

Albania is one of the cheapest eastern European destinations you can find.

Envi Taraku

Albania is one of the cheapest eastern European destinations you can find.


Eastern Europe has a reputation for being easy on the wallet, and Albania is among the cheapest destinations you’ll find there.

A small, mountainous nation on the Balkan peninsula with long Adriatic and Ionian coastlines, it is home to hillside towns which take you back to life in Ottoman times, and some of the least developed beaches on the Mediterranean.

Evidence of the country’s Communist past is everywhere in the capital city of Tirana, but you’ll find plenty of trendy – as well as traditional – restaurants and bars too. At a typical bistro, three courses of traditional food – think baked lamb or chicken in yoghurt and byrek (baked filo pastry filled with spinach and cheese) and a bottle of wine shouldn’t set you back more than $30.


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